When is a terrorist a terrorist?

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By Will Patching

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“Sinn Fein was the political front for Catholic terrorists, the self-styled Irish Republican Army (IRA), whose aim was to remove the British from Northern Ireland, at times using indiscriminate bombing against civilian targets. Its leaders proudly declared they would achieve their aims with a ballot box in one hand and a rifle in the other… and Sinn Fein were welcomed by the White House for years, even at the height of their bloody campaign. The IRA was ‘de-designated’ as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department in 1994 – because peace talks were underway in Northern Ireland. Yet the political wing of Hamas, despite being democratically elected to the Palestinian assembly in 2006, has been shunned, even having offered a ceasefire.”Dateline: 5/23/08

The definition of what constitutes a terrorist has exercised some of the best minds in history, but in answer to the question “When is a terrorist a terrorist?” the current US President replies, “When I say so…”

Ok, he didn’t actually use those exact words, at least not in public, but he did say this about Saddam Hussein in 2006:

“He was a state sponsor of terror. In other words, the (US) government had declared, you are a state sponsor of terror.”

Iran/Iraq

More recently the entire Iranian Republican Guard – a force of over 125,000 elite soldiers – was labeled a terrorist organization by Bushco for allegedly supplying dissident factions in Iraq with weaponry. Never mind that successive US administrations have a hideous and prolonged history of doing the same thing with vicious terrorist groups and sadistic despots, just as long as they were ideologically aligned to the government of the day.

Perhaps the most edifying example is the sale of WMD to Saddam by the US under Ronald Reagan to support his ambitions and keep Iranian fundamentalism at bay. Exports included biological agents such as anthrax, vital ingredients for chemical weapons, and cluster bombs – all delivered by a CIA front organisation in Chile… Obviously this was all well before Iraq’s psychopathic tyrant fell out of favour by invading Kuwait.

In this instance it is fair to ask – who are the real state terrorists in the Middle East?

American political dualism (ie hypocrisy) allows the current White House incumbent to holler about his thrust for democracy and trumpet his war on terror while threatening Iran – all the while ignoring the USA’s disgraceful interference in that country’s affairs.

Operation Ajax

This unholy military support for Saddam is just one recent example of the US acting against the interests of the citizens of Iran. Back in 1953 the CIA ran Operation Ajax with the aim of overthrowing Iran’s democratically elected government to re-install the Shah as an autocratic pro-western puppet.

The operation was seen as a triumph for US Middle Eastern foreign policy at the time, but was hardly a proud moment for American’s who believe their country has long stood as a champion for democracy and human rights. But then again, most of them will never hear about it as such travesties barely rate a mention in mainstream US media.

The truth is that the good ‘ole US was responsible for strangling Iranian democracy at birth and thrusting an autocratic monarch back on the people. The Shah ruled with an iron fist, a truly tyrannical leader, using his Savak secret service operatives to terrorize his people and torture ‘dissidents’ – some of whom were ‘dangerous’ members of pro-democracy groups; journalists, poets and the like.

This CIA operation was undeniably state sponsored terrorism against a democratically elected government. Why was it deemed necessary at the time? The answer is a familiar theme being mirrored in modern day Iraq: to install a pro-western puppet regime to ensure the country’s massive oil reserves could be plundered.

Can there be any doubt that the resultant anti-western feeling generated by US interference in Iran’s internal political affairs is the defining factor for the backlash that resulted in the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979? Or continued anti-US feeling in Persia and the wider Middle East?

And Bush asks, ‘Why do they hate us?’

He might as well ask why Muslims have become more radicalized over the years… If he troubled to read anything by Osama bin Laden or President Ahmadinejad he would know – and it’s not jealousy or hatred of our ‘way of life’, our wonderful freedoms, our democracy, or even Christianity.

It is because of our actions.

A modern day Jeremiah

This truth has recently been publicized during the race for the Democratic nomination in the States… The Reverend Jeremiah Wright has been slammed by the hysterical US media for his unpatriotic/incendiary comments, but in the light of America’s involvement in the Middle East his words about ‘chickens coming home to roost,’ and ‘You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you,’ have the ring of veracity to them – no matter how unpalatable to the US public.

American government hypocrisy extends beyond supporting anti-democratic despots – it includes funding and arming terrorist groups like the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan to overthrow the ‘tyranny’ of Soviet occupation. Some reputable sources – including Robin Cook, the UK Foreign Secretary from 1997 to 2001 – claim members of bin Laden’s Al Qaeda were recruited and trained with the backing of the CIA. In those days Al Qaeda were considered ‘freedom fighters’ because they were battling the ‘scourge of communism’ but, now they’ve focused on the tyranny of a US client state – Israel – they are labeled terrorists.

As are Hamas and Hezbollah – at least, by this administration. Many Arab nations and other countries around the world consider both organizations as being comprised of freedom fighters defending Palestinians against US sponsored Israeli aggression, yet blinkered American political intransigence refuses to even acknowledge the possibility. They’re terrorists, right? They’re bad people so we can’t talk to them…

Who wants peace anyway?

Jimmy Carter has been pilloried for giving Hamas credibility by having the audacity to do just that – talk with their political leaders – but surely dialogue is the only way to bring about a meaningful and lasting peace.

Could it be that the US and Israel have no wish for a peaceful resolution to the conflict if it means creating a Palestinian state? Could they have a common interest in an unstable and fractured Middle East where their military might can secure some of the world’s most valuable real estate? Could the existence of terrorism and Islamic extremism, combined with internecine fighting between Sunnis and Shia militia, help serve this purpose?

And speaking of Israel – what about Ariel Sharon? Wasn’t he labeled a terrorist and subject to a US State Department bulletin demanding that he be brought to account for his part in leading the Q’Biya massacre of 66 Palestinian civilians – also in 1953?

When is a terrorist a terrorist? Obviously the prevailing political view at the time is the most significant determinant.

Of course, all the while terrorism occurs a long way away and involves the non-peoples of the world such as A-rabs and the like, it isn’t that important, is it?

The day the world changed…

Everyone is agreed that the world changed on 9/11, although in truth it was American attitudes that changed. Terrorism was no longer a remote threat to US citizens going about their daily business, but became a clear and present danger to the comfortable lives of the most pampered individuals in the history of the world – a threat to be confronted with hysteria, fear, belligerence and paranoia, sparking a conflagration that consumed America’s values and rights as an opportunist and power hungry government fanned the flames, assisted by the quiescent cowering media.

Even so, despite the propaganda surrounding the so-called war on terror, not even convicted terrorists are necessarily all bad…

A terrorist in the White House?

President Bush welcomed one such self-confessed, convicted terrorist to the White House as recently as December 2007, and even shook hands with him for a photo-call – yet no-one in the US seemed to notice. You would have thought the hysterically paranoid media would have squealed in outrage, with Fox’s Bill O’Really foaming at the mouth over such an appalling travesty – especially as Bush’s guest was described as ‘Britain’s number one terrorist’ as recently as 1993.

Except, of course, the terrorist in question is now Deputy First Minister for the Northern Ireland Executive and a Member of Parliament representing Sinn Fein: Martin McGuinness.

Sinn Fein was the political front for Catholic terrorists, the self-styled Irish Republican Army (IRA), whose aim was to remove the British from Northern Ireland, at times using indiscriminate bombing against civilian targets. Its leaders proudly declared they would achieve their aims with a ballot box in one hand and a rifle in the other… and Sinn Fein were welcomed by the White House for years, even at the height of their bloody campaign.

The IRA was ‘de-designated’ as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department in 1994 – because peace talks were underway in Northern Ireland. Yet the political wing of Hamas, despite being democratically elected to the Palestinian assembly in 2006, has been shunned, even having offered a ceasefire.

Clearly, Bush’s definition of democracy is similar to his definition of terrorism: it is only democracy if he deems it so, and in reality he means a pro-western democracy, otherwise it just doesn’t count.
Such duplicitous double standards come as no surprise to anyone living outside of the United States media bubble.

The honored White House guest had this to say when he was convicted in 1973: ‘We have fought against the killing of our people. I am a member of Oglaigh na Eireann (IRA) and very, very proud of it.’ No doubt members of Hamas would express similar sentiments.

The Troubles

For decades many patriotic Irish-Americans supported the IRA by raising funds to pay for their bloody campaign of terror – euphemistically known as The Troubles. Dollars collected in the Irish bars of Boston were being used to buy Armalite rifles and Semtex explosives for the terrorists to use against the British in Northern Ireland and in England.

Perhaps we should be asking: where was the US support for Britain against the IRA over these years? And especially in 1984 when British Prime Minister Thatcher and her cabinet were blown up in the UK coastal town of Brighton, killing five members of the Conservative party and injuring 34 others?
The IRA claimed responsibility and had this to say at the time: “Today we were unlucky, but remember, we only have to be lucky once; you will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no war.”

Whilst Muslims are considered dehumanized non-peoples because a few of their number have allegedly done a similar thing on US soil (admittedly on a much greater scale) the American attitude to terrorism is enlightening. There was popular support for the IRA, explicitly with funds raised through organisations like NORAID – which many believe paid for arms and explosives – and at government level Irish extremists were wooed by the White House, even as their colleagues were fighting against the USA’s supposed ‘special’ ally.

Christians are different

Many people say that Christians would never resort to violence to pursue their views in the way the Islamists do, yet it is worth remembering that the conflict in Ireland was as much a religious war as a political one: Catholic violence on Protestants and vice versa led to over 30 years of terrorist atrocities in Northern Ireland and England. The result was more than 3000 deaths with almost 50,000 other people crippled and injured.

It was the UK’s own 9/11, but spread over three decades.

At the height of the ‘Troubles’, being the wrong type of Christian in parts of Northern Ireland could get you tortured – kneecapped with a bullet or with a Black& Decker drill if ammunition was scarce, brutally battered with a pick axe handle or similar, shot dead, blown up or mutilated. Fraternising with the wrong man could see a girl beaten, shaven headed and tarred and feathered – or worse. The man would not get off so lightly.

The IRA even developed the concept of a ‘proxy bomb’ – a suicide bomb delivered by a reluctant victim. In October 1990, they held a man’s family hostage, chained him to a car filled with explosives, and made him to drive to a checkpoint where the bomb was detonated, killing the hapless victim and five British soldiers. The IRA dropped the practice only because revulsion was undermining their support in the local community.

So-called Christians were doing these things to each other just a few years back in our ‘civilised, democratic’ UK. Were all Catholics vilified for the actions of a few in the way Islamists are today?

Hardly.

A defining act of terror

Perhaps we should remember the worst example of a state sponsored terrorist act in living memory. One perpetrated by the nation whose leaders now claim to be waging a war on terror.

If ‘terrorism’ can be defined as deliberately targeting innocent civilians to generate terror among them and thereby coerce their government to change direction, World War 2 provides the definitive case study. Can there be a more flagrant disregard for innocent human life demonstrated by the American body politic and their military industrial complex than the deliberate obliteration of the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

The morality of using an atomic bomb to end the Pacific conflict is worthy of debate in its own right. Regardless, it would be difficult to deny that dropping the second bomb was an unnecessary act of state terrorism – the first had demonstrated the USA’s overwhelming force and was enough to bring Japan to its knees.

Some would say that any war is just a form of terrorism by powerful nations, while terrorism is the only form of war available to the powerless.

Others would argue that the definition of terrorism belongs to the powerful… after all, they’re the ones who write history aren’t they?

***

This article is copyright Will Patching and appears at www.willpatching.com.

Will is the author of The Free World Petition which can be viewed at www.petitiononline.com/Patching/petition.html

One comment on “When is a terrorist a terrorist?
  1. A brilliant analysis by Mr Patching. I think he sums it up well when he says:

    “Some would say that any war is just a form of terrorism by powerful nations, while terrorism is the only form of war available to the powerless.”

    Victors always write the official histories indeed. But no power can defy reality indefinitely.

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